Sunday, March 24

Blake Deal: North Westwood Village apartments not worth costs, hazards or hassle


It’s that time of year again. Summer is drawing to a close, which means that fall quarter is coming up and thousands of UCLA students desperately need to find an apartment.

Although students usually seek housing in North Westwood Village because of its close proximity to campus, these apartments are not worth it. Despite their convenient location, North Village apartments, including those on Gayley Avenue, Levering Avenue and Strathmore Drive, come at an increased cost and low quality. The roads are full of cracks, parking is a disaster and loud parties keep students up at night.

If there is one thing students should know about apartment hunting, it is that they should look for better housing opportunities farther away from campus. Students have a greater likelihood of finding less expensive housing and a better-quality area beyond the North Village.

During my own time living in the North Village, visiting apartments and speaking with prospective landlords, I have come to better know the broader Westwood area, and its oft absurd housing prices. Though no temporary living situation is perfect, I know now that living south of Wilshire Boulevard is a better option.

There are three main criteria to be aware of when looking for an apartment: location, price and building quality. Those who choose to live closer to campus often sacrifice price and quality for location, whereas those who sacrifice a convenient location make up for it in price and quality.

[Related: The Five Stages of Apartment Hunting]

To illustrate, during the summer there was a tiny bachelor pad available for rent on Strathmore Drive, on the top floor, costing $1,600 a month plus parking and utilities. It was smaller than an average motel room, with barely enough room for a single bed and a table. It was too small to even house multiple roommates. Whoever ends up renting the room will either have to pay the full amount or live in cramped conditions.

There was another apartment on Gayley Avenue available during the summer that could comfortably house three people, but the landlords would only allow two people to rent it. Instead of paying about $1,000 for rent three ways, the two new tenants will have to pay around $1,500 each plus utilities.

But these two apartments on Gayley Avenue and Strathmore Drive are actually cheaper than normal. LA Weekly reported in March that Westwood apartments are now the most expensive in Los Angeles. The average two-bedroom apartment is a ridiculous $4,200, which according to the June 2016 California Apartment List Rent Report, is 1.5 times the median apartment price of Los Angeles and nearly twice as expensive compared to the median price of California in general.

If students go beyond Westwood, they are more likely to find lower prices, like a $2,600 two-bedroom two-bathroom apartment on Purdue Avenue. Rather than spending $1,600 for a bachelor pad on Strathmore Drive, prospective tenants could split this apartment in half and pay $1,300 a month, with the added benefit of having a living room and full kitchen. The same living situation would usually cost students $2,100 in Westwood.

Even when the price is the same between an apartment in the North Village and an apartment south of Wilshire Boulevard, students still usually pay for worse on-site services and rooms that are in disrepair. Since the tenants will be college students, who are more prone to drinking and partying than older residents, landlords relax their standards of cleanliness and apartment upkeep.

Buildings on Roebling Avenue are notorious for this. A reviewer named Patrick D. gave the only Yelp review for one of the apartment buildings on Roebling, giving it one star and saying, “Tenants frequently leave trash outside, lights rarely work, rodents are a consistent problem. Laundry area is dirty.” Another apartment building on Kelton Avenue has 19 total reviews on Yelp and only one and a half stars. Besides various reviewers complaining about not receiving their security deposits back on time and their landlord being rude, one reviewer claimed her room had termites. Unless students opt to pay even more for luxury apartments, these problems are not uncommon.

The North Village landlords’ reasoning is clear: If there will always be another college student willing to live in substandard conditions, or who will likely trash the apartment and surrounding area just like the previous tenant, why make any major renovations or improve their services?

[Related: City officials fund project to improve lighting in North Village]

Even if students secure a respectable apartment in the North Village, in an area generally clear of trash and couches lying on sidewalks, students are disproportionately more likely to be ticketed or towed for parking violations than nearly anywhere else in Los Angeles. In 2012, Los Angeles issued more than 6,100 tickets in the North Village because of street cleaning alone. The tickets collectively cost students hundreds of thousands of dollars, enough to pay a UCLA student’s four-year tuition costs several times over.

A few years back, Los Angeles officials also began ticketing students for “apron parking,” or parking partially on the street and driveway. Although Los Angeles has since rescinded this policy, saving students some money, it still leaves North Village packed with cars, hazardous narrow lanes and crumbling roads. Commenting on the situation, the Los Angeles Times reported that a student called the area “the college slums.”

Of course, not all apartments around North Village are bad, but these are just some of the trends students are likely to experience. If people can find a decent apartment without having to sacrifice an arm or a leg, all the more power to them. However, students must avoid dismissing other legitimate housing options. Proximity to campus is not everything.

The public transportation system, bicycles and even push scooters all make the world a smaller place. Investing in something as simple as one of these can go a long way in compensating for one’s distance from campus. And for those who have cars, living somewhere other than North Village helps prevent getting parking tickets for street cleaning.

If students decide to move farther away from the UCLA campus, they will avoid the college slums and be more likely to find a better apartment at a lower price. Rather than choosing to live like sardines alongside other students in an area with relatively poor infrastructure, students ought to explore other options south of Wilshire and elsewhere.

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Opinion columnist

Blake Deal was a columnist during the 2015-2016 school year.

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